facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button

Outlining and Drafting Your Story

You probably have a wealth of ideas, anecdotes, and passages you want to include in your book. The outline enables you to decide where these individual pieces will go in your story, and how they all fit together.

Outlining and drafting

Kathi Macias writes in The Train-of-Thought Writing Method, “If you can’t summarize your would-be manuscript (or maybe one you’ve already written) in one line, that tells me you aren’t really clear on the theme or purpose of the piece. How then can you expect your readers to figure it out?” Begin outlining your book by creating a one-line synopsis of what your story is about. You need to know what your story is about to effectively communicate it to your readers.

Fitting the Pieces into an Outline

“Start by making an outline of what you believe your story will be, and fit your smaller stories within the outline, so you can form an idea of what the manuscript may look like,” says Sally Forman, author of Eye of the Storm: Inside City Hall During Katrina. Forman had scraps of handwritten notes from her experience as New Orleans’ city communications director during Hurricane Katrina, but it wasn’t until she began fitting these scraps into an outline that a coherent narrative began to emerge.

If you’re writing fiction, you can also outline each of your characters. What do they look like? What mannerisms and gestures do they employ? What are their thought patterns? If you’re struggling for new ideas, get out and find a good, safe spot in town where you can socially distance yourself as you watch people interact and talk to one another. Pay attention to how people look, how they act, and how they play off each other throughout a conversation. Incorporate these details to give some extra life to your characters.

Forming the Building Blocks of Your Manuscript

Once you have a good one-line synopsis of your story and an outline of your ideas, begin forming the chapters as the basic building blocks of your manuscript. Define your goals for each chapter. What new information will your readers have at the end of the chapter, and how will they navigate through this information? Once you can begin to see each chapter emerge, you’ll also begin to see how you can transition from one idea into the next.

Throughout the process, don’t limit yourself to a strictly linear outline. There are multiple ways to get your ideas down on paper. You can try putting the title of your book in the middle of a sheet of paper, and then branching out from the center to place your chapters. If a sheet of paper is too small, use a whiteboard or corkboard so that the pieces are easy to move around. When you look at this type of outline, you can easily move chapters around to fit into your overall narrative.

No outline is ever complete nor chiseled in stone. If you get to a point in your writing where your original outline becomes more of a burden than a guide, then revise it. As you begin to flesh out your characters, setting, and plot, or explore new ideas about your research, the possibilities in your narrative begin to expand. You’ll probably end up with as many outlines as drafts.

Drafting Your Chapters

Once you are comfortable with the overall structure and direction of your outline, you can get down to the real work of drafting your chapters. Again, don’t limit yourself to a strictly linear writing style. Many writers purposely wait to write the first chapter until after the rest of the book is complete. Begin working on chapters with fleshed-out ideas, wherein you already know what you want to accomplish. As you write the parts you’re comfortable with, new ideas will emerge for areas that need more development.

Now that you’re down to the actual drafting of your book, have fun. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or trying to edit yourself as you go. You’ll have plenty of time to revisit and revise your writing down the road. Get the ideas you’ve had rattling around your head for so long down on paper. The more you write, the easier the process will become, and a coherent narrative will begin to emerge. With your well-developed outline in hand, you’ll know where you’re going and why.

If you’d like to read more about planning your book,
How to Plan Your Book: Taking Your Book from Idea to Manuscript is a comprehensive guide to pre-writing preparation.


Five Self-Publishing Do’s and Don’ts

The Benefits of Self-Publishing

The It’s a Team Effort: How Publishing With Us Works

How To Publish Your Book in Five Easy Steps

Four Common Self-Publishing Roadblocks and How to Overcome Them

Five Tips for a Professional Cover Design

The Publishing Process

From Brainstorming to Publishing

A Beginner's Guide to Navigating Publishing Services

Book Cover Design: How to Make Your Book Stand Out

Book Cover Essentials

DIY Self-Publishing vs. Supported Self-Publishing: What's Right for You?

Self-Publishing a Book in 8 Steps

10 Autobiographies That Will Inspire You

Autobiography vs Memoir

Navigating The Top 8 Book Distributor Services: Pros and Cons

The Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing

Demystifying Self-Publishing: How to Turn Your Book Dreams into Reality

Designing Eye-Catching Book Covers: A Guide for Self-Publishers

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Making an Informed Decision

Navigating the World of Print-on-Demand: A Primer for Self-Publishers

Distribution Options for Self-Published Authors: Reaching Your Target Audience

Self-Publishing on a Budget: Cost-Effective Tips for Authors

“Mind the gap”: Lessons Learned from Self-Published Authors

Setting Yourself Up for Success: 5 Essential Tips for Self-Publishing

Self-Publishing Platforms: 5 Things to Consider When Making Your Choice

Book Cover Design 101: Creating an Eye-Catching Book Cover

Book Cover Design: How “Founder's Syndrome” Impacts Your Success

From Blog to Book: Turning Your Online Content into a Publication

Overcoming Self-Doubt as a Self-Published Author: Boosting Confidence and Motivation

Want to Learn More?

Request Your Free Publishing Consultation Below

Fill our form to learn more about publishing with AuthorHouse

By clicking “Request My Free Consultation”, you are providing your electronic signature, voluntarily authorizing AuthorHouse and its affiliates to contact you using a manual or automated telephone dialing system and send you advertisement or telemarketing messages by email or text/SMS/MMS message to the address and phone number you have provided above. You are not required to agree to this in order to buy products or services from AuthorHouse. You certify that you are over the age of eighteen (18). You’ll get up to ten (10) messages per month. Standard message and data rates may apply. Click here to view our privacy policy.